Karaoke music is nothing short of a revolution. It has helped change the outlook towards amateur singing, and, in the process, unlock untapped talent across the world. Imagine a world before karaoke. Amateur singers would have been shy and have misgivings about showcasing their talents in front of the world. However, with the evolution of karaoke, especially online karaoke apps, these reservations have now vanished.

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Origin of Karaoke

The word, karaoke, is derived from two Japanese words - 'kara' comes from the word 'karappo' meaning empty or void and 'oke' comes from the word 'okesutura' or orchestra. Typically, karaoke songs are music productions without the voice of the singer. Presumably, it originated at a Japanese snack bar where a scheduled singing performance could not go ahead as planned. And, so the bar owner started playing recorded music while leaving the stage open for customers to come up and have a go with the microphone. Another origin story attributes the trend of karaoke singing to a Japanese singer, Daisuke, in the 1970s. He recorded songs and sold them to people to sing along as well.

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Do you sing like a bag of cats? | Source: Inge Wallumrød

Karaoke Technology

At the most basic level, a karaoke machine consists of a microphone, controls for pitch alteration of the recorded music, and an audio output. Most karaoke machines are audio mixers with microphone input built-in with CD+G, Video CD, LaserDisc, or DVD players. CD+G players use a special track called subcode to encode the lyrics and pictures displayed on the screen, while the other formats natively display both audio and video.

In most karaoke machines, the pitch of the music is changed electronically, allowing amateur singers to sing along to any music source by choosing an appropriate key for their unique vocal range, without compromising on the original tempo of the music. Karaoke games, such as "Kamikaze Karaoke" or "Karaoke Roulette" are very popular, in which a random number is typed into the karaoke machine, and a song is called up for participants to sing.

Karaoke Terms To Know

  1. Jūhachiban or hako: Literally, the word means number 18. Many karaoke singers show off their talent with that one song they are really good at. The Japanese call this jūhachiban in reference to the 18 most popular kabuki plays. In Hong Kong, such a song is called a "banquet song".
  2. Karamovie or Movioke: Having originated in 2003, this is a form of karaoke in which amateur actors replace their favorite movie stars in karaoke videos, using specialized software or remote control muting and screen blanking/freezing.
  3. Karaoke jockey or KJ: As the name suggests, a karaoke jockey plays and manages the music for a venue. A KJ's role includes the announcement of song titles and whose turn it is to use the microphone.
  4. KTV: Karaoke Music Video.
  5. Hitokara: In simple terms, this refers to solo karaoke. Hito means "one person" or "alone", and kara "karaoke" in Japan.

Popularity of Karaoke in India

Karaoke is gradually gaining traction in India, thanks to a fast-growing urbane working class with international exposure. As in Japan, urban India has a number of karaoke clubs and bars, especially in metropolitan cities like Bengaluru (formerly, Bangalore), Delhi, and Mumbai (formerly, Bombay). Karaoke evenings have become a huge draw for the crowds, with people of all ages holding the mic.

Karaoke nights an attractive and inclusive idea to let the members get some prominence in displaying their talent.

The Internet is an excellent source of free Karaoke tracks for true music lovers. The digitization of technology is enabling the quality of these tracks to get better and better, with some even attaining professional standards. The Internet offers a variety of karaoke songs and videos, including English, Bengali, Hindi, as well as Tamil karaoke songs with lyrics for free download. Videos with Karaoke prompts, available aplenty on YouTube, have the song lyrics appearing on the screen. Such tracks are very good for practicing one's singing.

In the context of Hindi Karaoke songs available for free download, particularly songs of the 1950-70s, tracks might be few and far between. However, for later years, the quality of the karaoke tracks keeps improving. For those who take singing seriously and want to use karaoke to practice their singing, keep trying different versions of a song until you find the best one. And, the best is out there!

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Everyone's a superstar in a karaoke bar. | Source: Thibault Trillet

Best Places to Find Free Karaoke Songs and Videos Online

Turn your smartphone or computer into an improvised karaoke machine. We list here some of the best online apps and websites to find and download your favorite songs for karaoke singing and music practice.

Sing! by Smule

Sing! by Smule is arguably one of the best Karaoke apps out there. Popular not only for its database of Hindi songs but also for other languages such as English, Malayalam, Telugu, and many other regional languages, the interface is extremely user-friendly. Available for both Android and iPhone platforms. It provides a massive catalog of Pop, R&B, Rock, Rap, Hip Hop, Country, Soundtracks, Latin, K-Pop, and many more music genres.

The app lets you add effects such as Magic, Studio, Polish, Popstar, Super Pop, Super studio, Indie, Double you, Star, Dust, and Grunge, once you have recorded your song. Sing solo or in a duet. Use the audio effects and video filters to make your favorite karaoke songs appear more professional. The Video filters include Selfie, Vintage, Black & White, Sepia, and Fight Club. Smule is an online community of karaoke lovers who can like, comment, and share videos and karaoke with a 50M+ like-minded and supportive community.

Taranaa.com

Taranaa.com is one of India's first computer karaoke systems. It is convenient to use and offers a rapidly growing library of Hindi Karaoke tracks collected across six decades of Hindi film music. The web-based app offers its users a fun experience of singing with a full score of music. Synchronized lyrics help users sing along with digitally-recorded karaoke music tracks. Users can even record their own performance using the Taranaa Karaoke Player for free! The software can be installed in less than 5 minutes and is available for download on both Windows and Mac operating systems (with pitch controls on both). The audio blog, Taranaa Tarang, lets users post their song recordings and reach out to a worldwide audience.

Meragaana.com

With a motto, 'Anybody Can sing', MeraGana.com offers its users the pleasurable experience of hearing themselves sing. The app offers music lovers the therapeutic magic of singing. The online karaoke offers the following features for its users:

  • It does not require any software download.
  • It is a 100% free, multifeatured karaoke player with controls for pitch, scale, and tempo.
  • It offers original background music and chorus for many songs.
  • It has a large library of Karaoke Songs.
  • New karaoke songs are added to its library every week.
  • Users can build their favorite karaoke playlists.
  • Users have unlimited access to the app from anywhere, anytime.

MeraGana.com owns the world's largest library of Indian Karaoke music, with a whopping collection of 14,239 songs. Their specialist team of musicians recreates soulful karaoke melodies which users can perform using the high-quality microphones, also provided by MeraGana.com.

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Karaoke apps are like having a simple mixing deck in your pocket. | Source: pixabay.com

Karafun

KaraFun has an online library of more than 40,000 high-quality karaoke songs recorded in professional studios. The different karaoke apps offered by Karafun turn your device into the perfect karaoke machine! The features on the app are customizable in terms of the key and tempo of any song in the app's catalog. Lead and background vocals can also be added. Users can also sync their favorite songs offline! The singer's name can be added to the queue and tracked easily.

Apps on Offer

  • KaraFun Mac
  • KaraFun Player
  • KaraFun Web
  • KaraFun iPhone
  • KaraFun iPad
  • KaraFun Android
  • KaraFun TV

SingPlus

Now, sing and record your own cover of the latest and old Hindi songs tracks either on your own (solo) or in collaboration with friends. There are 8 special sound effects on the app that can be used to edit the karaoke song, once it has been recorded. These effects include Pop, R&B, Electronic, Jazz BRight, Phonograph, Hip Pop, and Rock. Apart from Bollywood Hindi language songs, SingPlus also has in its library karaoke songs in other Indian languages, such as Tamil, Telugu, Marathi, Kannada, Punjabi, Naija, Gospel, and many more regional songs for free. The app makes freestyle singing easily available to its users. The app contains song collections of some of the top artists in the business of music, including Arijit Singh, Shreya Ghoshal, Atif Aslam, Davido, Wizkid, D’banj, Olamide, Bruno Mars, John Legend, Meghan Trainor, Ellie Goulding, Jessie J, Sam Smith, and Lukas Graham.

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Shreyanjana

Shreyanjana is an archaeologist who ironically finds the written word to be the most powerful means of storytelling. A travel buff and a photography enthusiast, she has been writing and sharing stories of all sorts ever since she can remember.